Plants shall inherit the earth.
Noir Tropical is an ongoing photo-based documentary photobook-in-progress that explores urban society’s relationship to plants and imagines a post-human world, where vascular plant species have regained ownership of the earth, unhampered by human construction and destruction.
In our human, modern, urban life, we crowd into cities and cluster together like ants in an anthill, stacked on top of each other in glass boxes, scurrying through subway tunnels under the earth’s surface. Our kinship with the vegetation that provides us with air, shade, nourishment, and shelter detaches and technology and globalization industrializes and mass-produces our food chain. In cities and densely populated metropolitan areas, during the workday, preserved green spaces are devoid of humans. National parks, gardens and city green spaces sit empty and are used less and less. The everyday human’s connection and knowledge of plants shifts from being a routine necessity for survival, to become an infrequent, academic and capitalistic pursuit. As we stuff ourselves into office cubicles and cement spaces, nature, once the lifeblood of the agricultural working class, shifts to become a luxury for the wealthy.
While the variety of plant species on earth vastly outnumber the number of mammal species on the planet, most people are unable to name more than 1% of the nearly 400,000 species of plants scientists have identified. These living plant creatures that give us oxygen, that sustain the food chain and provide medicine, homes, and nourishment to the millions of creatures on earth, are given very little thought by humans, proportionate to the role they provide in the planet’s existence.
Plants came before humans and will outlive us, yet our relationship to them is transactional, usatory, and colonial at best. We domesticate plant foods, colonize entire plant species and tear down trees that stand in the way of cities. While we enjoy temporary dominance over the flora, history and science predict that this will soon come to an end, and like the 2,000 plant species that go extinct annually, humans will one day also disappear, leaving vines and moss, root systems and fungus to re-inhabit our structures and survive whatever destruction is left in our wake.
Do plants themselves sense this shift? Is there plant consciousness? Are there plant languages? Recent studies show that plants do move, mate, experience pain, seek their own variety of pleasure and do communicate with each other on levels and at paces difficult for humans to comprehend. Do they sense humans as friends or foes? Are there plants waiting to regain their place in the sun, unhampered by human pests?
Noir Tropical seeks to re-envision plants, to re-learn their names and see them as clans and tribes of creatures, family groups, waiting to re-inherit the earth, rather than as foodstuff and materials to be cut down or planted and modified at human discretion. Plants compete for space and sunlight. New flora develops to outsmart animal predators and environmental threats.
Noir tropical is a pessimistic and cynical era, a visual expression of the disappointment in the human species to act as custodians and caretakers of the earth. As the human reign on the planet reaches its end, will the last human survivors change their relationships to plants? Will future sentient visitors to earth view plants as alien species. Will future visitors to the planet try to communicate and understand vascular plants in a way that humans failed to achieve? What plant species will rise to rule and invade new regions? Which species will disappear without humans to cultivate, breed and protect them from insects and viruses?
Noir Tropical foretells a post-climate-change era, where deciduous forests change to mangroves and palm trees. Agricultural fields of human-planted corn and wheat become humid swamps. Rainforests cover Appalachian mountains and the Florida tropics run from United State’s southern tip to Canada’s northern coast.
In the era of Noir Tropical, humans are no more.